Colloquium: Pediatric Robotics – A Journey from the Lab to a Child’s Home
Biography: Ayanna Howard, Ph.D. is the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Professor and Chair of the School of Interactive Computing in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She also holds a faculty appointment in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Howard’s career focus is on intelligent technologies that must adapt to and function within a human-centered world. Her work, which encompasses advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), assistive technologies, and robotics, has resulted in over 200 peer-reviewed publications in a number of projects - from healthcare robots in the home to AI-powered STEM apps for children with diverse learning needs. Dr. Howard received her B.S. in Engineering from Brown University, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California. To date, her unique accomplishments have been highlighted through a number of awards and articles, including highlights in USA Today, Upscale, and TIME Magazine, as well as being recognized as one of the 23 most powerful women engineers in the world by Business Insider. In 2013, she also founded Zyrobotics, which is currently licensing technology derived from her research and has released their first suite of STEM educational products to engage children of all abilities. Prior to Georgia Tech, Dr. Howard was a senior robotics researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She has also served as the Associate Director of Research for the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, Chair of the Robotics Ph.D. program, and the Associate Chair for Faculty Development in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech.
Abstract: There are an estimated 150 million children worldwide living with a disability. For many of these children, physical therapy is provided as an intervention mechanism to support the child’s academic, developmental, and functional goals from birth and beyond. With the recent advances in robotics, therapeutic intervention protocols using robots is now ideally positioned to make an impact in this domain. There are numerous challenges though that still must be addressed to enable successful interaction between patients, clinicians, and robots - developing interfaces for clinicians to communicate with their robot counterparts; developing learning methods to endow robots with the ability to playfully interact with the child; and ensuring that the robot can provide feedback to the parent and clinician in a trustworthy manner. In this talk, I will discuss the role of robotics and related technologies for pediatric therapy and highlight our methods that bring us closer to this goal. I will present our approaches and preclinical studies in which these technologies address real-life developmental goals for children with special needs.